Aspen Ideas Fest a hot ticket
November 17, 2006
While most Aspenites are reveling in visions of powdery snow and bright winter days, over at The Aspen Institute, they are gearing up for next summer’s 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival, scheduled for July 2-8.And it seems the festival’s growing list of supporters and participants is thinking along similar lines.”Half the festival is sold out,” said AIF public relations manager Kitty Boone. She said passes to the second of the two separate events have all been sold at $2,000 apiece for the general public (Aspen Institute donors get a discount).This is the third Aspen Ideas Festival, co-sponsored by The Atlantic magazine. Again this year the AIF will be split into two separate but equal sessions, which Boone said had to be done in order to accommodate the numbers of people who want to attend.”We’re close to selling out the first session, too,” she said – and that’s before they’ve sent out a single name for any of the expected array of international policymakers, political personalities, celebrities, philosophers and others who usually participate in the AIF.Organizers expect a total of up to 1,300 passholders (along with speakers and sponsors) to crowd the venues at this year’s festival, along with an untold number of locals expected to take advantage of what organizers are calling “public events.” Those events, Boone said, are part of an ongoing process to make the Institute more relevant to the Aspen population.Although the Aspen Institute has been here since 1950, it went through some rocky times with the local government. And due to perceptions the Institute had become a haughty bastion for elitists and celebrities, it had receded into the background of the community’s consciousness. But in recent years, under the helm of current CEO Walter Isaacson, the Institute has been making an effort to connect with local residents by inviting locals into the tent, so to speak. Some of the Institute’s public events take place at the Benedict Music Tent, as well as a variety of other venues around Aspen, and locals have flocked to attend.Boone said the Institute staff are not ready to release the names of speakers for any of the AIF four-day “tracks” of sessions – one is July 2-5, the other is July 5-8 – or the “public events.” She said the main day will be July 5, and that day likely will involve “plenary sessions” at both the Institute’s Paepcke Auditorium and at the Benedict Music Tent. Other events around town are expected to be held at such venues as the Hotel Jerome, the Belly Up bar, the Little Nell hotel and others.Boone predicted that the Institute will begin to name names “some time in January.”John Colson’s e-mail address is email@example.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.